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I first came to the writer Ellen Ullman through her second novel, By Blood, which I read in gulps. When I went to see what else she had published, I discovered her other job: programming. Her memoir Close to the Machine, which takes place during the late-90s internet boom, captured the emotional draw of creating code. And her first novel, The Bug, was inspired by her real-life experience with a particularly persistent bug — only the novel got much darker.

Her new book, Life in Code: A Personal History of Technology, is a series of essays beginning in 1994 and ending in 2017, coinciding almost perfectly with the rise of the Internet in most people’s lives. (You can read an excerpt here.) The first essay in the new book is the one that…

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